This scrap of yellow legal pad on the desk is beginning to annoy me so here it is.

what once was October 2018

Now I will toss it.  Amen.

I scribbled these notes several weeks ago driving old haunts in Chicago.  Changes.  Where familiar places once were.  Now filled by the less inspiring.

  • Sunshine Cafe on Clark for simple homestyle Japanese food … now gyros and whatnot from a Greek place.  What Chicago needs.  More gyros.
  • Tom Seay Center on Broadway at Sunnyside where for decades The Salvation Army in spite of concerned citizens aka NIMBY was able to offer a place to stay for people who were homeless and receive help in leaving the streets … now home to a mattress store and Sprint sales people.  Surrounded by invading suburban life.  The genteel middle class consumer now abides.  Shopping at Target on the other side of the street.  They have won.
  • Treasure Island, our favorite on Broadway at Cornelia, our household’s provenance of holiday foods … closed.  I watched out of town small business owners scavenging store fixtures.  All Chicago’s Treasure Islands now closed.  Thank you, Walmart (and Target).
  • Golden Nugget on Clark at Schubert, where breakfast could be had at any time of day, the rarity of rarities for it had, wonder of wonders, PARKING in the back.  And pretty decent endless coffee … now Banana Republic without offering a single banana to eat.  Get your coffee down the street.  More money, less character.  But with soy.

I could go on.

One more observation.

Driving the north side means seeing such construction such as I have not seen in the decades I’ve known this side of Chicago.  It seems everywhere.  What began during Daley the Second appears to have infected retail and residential building for miles on and near Clark during the reign of Rahm.  What’s going on?

If he were still with us what would Royko write?

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This St Louis Post Dispatch article caught my eye when it ran a few days ago.  Because many years ago at a conference sponsored by Pastoral Renewal this pretty much is what one presenter predicted.

The conference took place in Oak Park IL where we just happened to be living at the time.  The mid 1980s.  I would need to search my stuff to identify who said it… Ralph Martin?  dunno.

But the statement from the speaker caught my attention then.  I’ve remembered.  And now this Lancet Commission report will be examined and discussed this week in London.

I suspect that what will be discussed may nudge up close to the 21st century development of the Urban Millennium.

Increasing density of population.  Richer and more complex diversity.  Greater disparities.  All could be likely suspects.  Don’t misunderstand me.  I do not demonize these developments.  But they bring challenges as well as blessings.  Let’s see what comes from the London conference.

looking west 4 20 2017

“But I’d always seen my work through the lens of social justice.”

When I read it I realized this was also true for me.  Increasingly so, over the years, the decades.  Soon four decades as a Salvation Army Officer.

I have worked in Gary IN, westside Chicago, Detroit.  I now live in the Benton Park West neighborhood of St Louis where young white professional people are showing up as homeowners alongside BPW’s long time black community largely of renters.

My morning runs go south through the Dutchtown neighborhood where I note houses and street corners people have been shot.  On one block alone I watched the news last year as first one then two more were shot to death there.  One block.  It seems like such a nice block, too.  Early rising neighbors wave and exchange greetings with me.

When I read the above quote of Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who exposed the lead poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, I feel kinship.

My profession as a Salvation Army Officer requires among other things a generalist approach to the kinds of work an Officer does in the name of The Salvation Army.  Social work, preaching, youth development, fiscal management, property projects, discipling Christians, fundraising, loading potatoes, praying, unloading potatoes.

But at fundraisers I look around the room and notice.  At youth rallies.  On Sunday mornings I look at the crowd and notice.  At the monthly reports.  At where we allot financial resources and volunteers.  I can’t help it.  I notice and exercise what leadership I possess.  My voice, a question.  For many years now I’ve developed this sense and I can’t escape it.  At times it is burning in my bones.  Really, I’m not all that dramatic a person.  But it’s there.

I have come to realize that I am tuned to the key of justice.

Started in school.  Only twice I got into fights.  Hardly call them fights for I used my fists on surprised bullies picking on others.  A couple punches and it was over.  Remembering now, I feel something rising up in me.  It’s still there.

“lens of social justice”

That sounds much more elite-academia than working class-fists.  But the way I see it, it’s pretty much the same.

Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha

Dr. Mona Hanna Attisha 

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It is early Saturday morning on Arsenal Street, quiet and still in the back of the house.

The study window faces south and where I am seated gives a southeast view as dawn comes and goes.  With the dawn I listened to this recording of the Sibelius Scene With Cranes.  The artists are unattributed which perhaps will help it keep its place in one of those out of the way corners in the Youtube world, bringing no deletion wrath from the liability gods.

In the Youtube world I really do enjoy another version for its whimsical, then moving integration of music with, well, a scene with cranes, construction cranes.

But this morning’s recording was right for the day’s dawning moment.  Intense, limpid.  Neither overwrought nor an affectless face.  Unrushed pace of sound with dawn’s arrival.

The music and my southeast view of this neighborhood sky integrates with my anticipation of early morning migrating cranes which will come later this summer.  They will fly a northwest course high over this inner city neighborhood.   I see these cranes, by summer’s end hundreds will have traveled overhead, as I go on the streets for my morning runs.  Their flight intersects at a ninety degree angle with my runs.  It really is beautiful and I am looking forward to it.

Migratory cranes and waking inner city.  Construction cranes and Sibelius’ music of death.  Movements integrated.

This morning’s New York Times pointed out that mass school shootings happen mostly in small town America.

Okay, this seems to be so, in light of Parkland FL and Santa Fe TX.

But I thought immediately of the cumulative toll of shootings in cities like Chicago, Baltimore, my St Louis, etc.   While mass shootings in big city schools are rare, I feel confident in thinking that the total deaths of urban young people by gun tops the cumulative death total of these small town school mass shootings.

For example, 27 young people age 15 and under shot to death in Chicago during 2017 including a 4 day old preemie shot while in her mother’s womb.  I love Chicago but it’s notorious in recent years as the city with the most Americans shot to death.  I won’t make the effort to try add up all other American big cities.

So, is some light shed on the question of guns and violence, and a way forward, if we take a good look at this contrast?

This morning I am in Kansas, really not all that far from the state line with Missouri, my current home state.

Today and the next few days are ‘furlough’ which to a Salvation Army Officer means time to not-work.  I will do that for the most part.  Part of furlough in Elk County is a leisurely morning run down a dirt county road.  More than routine it is my ritual.

Yesterday morning eight whitetail crossed the road ahead as I ran north, turning with the road as it jogs right, and then left as it resumes its northerly course.  A rural water district water tower ahead beckoned me once more onward, upward the rising road.

Kansas Elk County Road 21 4 24 2018

the view midpoint in a 10k route return

Furlough days allow for these things typically put to the side.  Long runs, and reading this excerpt from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s new book Reconstructing The Gospel just out from Intervarsity Press.

Reconstructing.

Systems.

I paused in my reading.  I will get a copy of the book.

I paused at the word ‘reconstructing’.

Salvation Army work currently involves me in the roll out of a racial equity lens for our Army use throughout the St Louis region.

I live in St Louis, my office based here too.  Responsibilities frequently take me on the road throughout Missouri and southern Illinois.  Away from life which I enjoy in our Benton Park West neighborhood, a ten minute walk to Cherokee Street, the gritty diversity, the earnest and often clueless young white folks moving into BPW.  And the personal challenge to me, a professional minister with years of experience in urban inner cities now able to live in a place I understand.  Often.  There are times I am not so unlike those earnest ones.

Reconstructing the gospel is about reconstructing the systems that are in place which handle, shape and unavoidably misuse the euangelion.  A racial equity lens helps us to examine these systems.  Organizations and institutions are systems.   The Salvation Army is a movement.  As is the way of all things, it requires shape and form.  Organization.  Ways, traditions, culture.  Decision making patterns and instituted policies.  Thus, like all organizations, we need a lens in our 21st century American post-Michael Brown St Louis setting.  We needed it pre-Michael Brown.  But now we do have a way of examining our movement here in terms of racial equity.

On the road between Kansas City and this quiet Kansas county we listened to an interview with Rhiannon Giddens, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation grant last fall.  She is now working on a “theatrical treatment” of the Wilmington Insurrection of 1898.  This musical work will help us see what American history calls Reconstruction, the decades following our Civil War.  Listen to the interview.  Giddens helps us realize it should not have been a surprise what the powers of white supremacy did to Reconstruction.

The Reconstruction of the late 19th century South in America is controversial.  Until lately it has been viewed through a set of white supremacist eyes.  As a schoolboy I remember reading it to be so in our history textbooks.  It is only later in life that I’m learning otherwise.  Giddens’ new work will be part of helping tell a full story.

Things not rightly put together do not work as meant to be.  Things rightly put together can go wrong.  The attention of God in our world is in the rightly putting together of things, and in the making right of things gone wrong.  Regeneration.  Reconciliation.  Redemption.

Running.  Reading.  Ruminating.  My morning run takes me past cattle chewing the cud.  They spot me, stand, stare.  One begins to run and then all.  Every morning, through the years.

We are beginning to notice.  Using our eyes in new ways.  This is our time to start moving, some would say running to make right the things wrong.  To make new things rightly.  Reconstructing.

As we reconstruct systems, help us, Lord, to be surprised.

TSARSTL Racial Equity Lens #4 png

 

Gail and I have followed David Claerbaut for years.  First many years ago in his published writing on urban ministry, then several years ago a visit to his church around the corner from us in Chicago.  Now I keep up via his blog.

This is the week America remembers the killing 50 years ago of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  Here’s what D.C. wrote on it.  I found it helpful:

Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered 50 years ago today.

I remember it well.  The announcement that interrupted normal television programming was chilling.  King had been in Memphis supporting a strike by sanitation workers, yet another of his many self-sacrificial efforts on behalf of the powerless. In a fleeting moment this larger than life public figure was gone.

It is hard to describe the impact of this 39-year-old martyr for the cause of the Second Great Commandment.  Upon news of his death, cities exploded in violence, people—black and white–were plunged into despair; the civil rights movement—of which King was all but the incarnation—appeared over.  Everyone was in shock.

His death did all but mark the end of the turn-the-other-cheek non-violent form of political resistance.  His official successor, Ralph David Abernathy, had none of King’s charisma, and the divisive Jesse Jackson, who all but hijacked King’s mantle, has always seemed more in a quest of the nearest camera and the attendant self-aggrandizement, than the cause of justice.

It has never been the same since King died.  He was a unifier, a man of the people, shunning celebrity and a life ease in favor of the less traveled path of genuine servanthood.  Though quoting from scripture and often in prayer, some evangelicals criticized him as a theological liberal for his emphasis on social rather than specifically spiritual causes.  Yet many of the very seminaries from which those critics graduated would not admit King, because there were on the wrong side of the Second Great Commandment—the one King was living out.

His work was rooted in faith and a call to God’s work.  “Before I was a civil rights leader,” said King, “I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.”

The man who said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” was a giant—clearly among the most important figures in the second half of the 20th Century.  Like Moses and David, Martin Luther King, Jr. had his imperfections, but I shudder to think of where our nation would be without his brief but shining presence. DC

You might also be interested to know that the killer of Dr. King escaped from a Missouri state prison for an armed robbery on the street I run along every morning.

texas-looking-east-on-pestalozzi

A little over a year ago Gail and I talked over lunch with Rob and Stacy about what we’re doing in St Louis and our shared commitment to mission. Excited to see this new missional community expression on the West Coast!

Waking up this morning before the sun, the above photo was the beautiful scene – a Valley we are falling in love with every day, ready to fulfill God’s purpose for its existence.

January 2018 is when valley miSsionAl communitues officially launches (if you haven’t yet, see the last blog post with the 2023 Vision). We will be moving into a house in Canoga Park any day now, and so much is being planned: a house blessing party, Bible Study, worship, meals and much more. It’s going to be a place to send people out in love and service.

Even though Crags and Gilmore in Calabasas has been our home for several months, we are only ten miles from Canoga Park and go frequently.

Tuesdays, Sweet Prayers day, we now visit 5 Massage Parlors faithfully. After meeting in the parking lot of the Adult Rehab Center…

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More of my local life as a St Louisan.

I live in the Benton Park West neighborhood, not as chichi a place as Benton Park to the east. BPW’s greater socio-economic diversity means that it tends to have more ‘issues’ so we keep our eyes and ears open to dangers. But also to its uncommon beauty.

img_0297I run a regular morning route south into the Dutchtown neighborhood, seeing far more aesthetic pleasures than I am able to capture in photos. I style myself as a member of the nonexistent Dutchtown Runners Club.

This week I’ve enjoyed these two ongoing studies in migrating bricks.

Construction and deconstruction.

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Every Monday a scripture portion arrives in my email.

Major Israel Velazquez sends it.  Major Israel is a retired Salvation Army Officer.  He  and his wife, Major Wilma, served many years in some of the Midwest’s largest cities.  Their ministry was Salvation Army programs for adults with substance abuse problems.

This morning this verse came and right away I knew what it was saying to me.

ACTS 26:16;18 (VOICE)

Get up now, and stand upright on your feet. I have appeared to you for a reason. I am appointing you to serve Me. You are to tell My story and how you have now seen Me, and you are to continue to tell the story in the future. It will be your mission to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God. This is so that they may receive forgiveness of all their sins and have a place among those who are set apart for a holy purpose through having faith in Me.”

Earlier at breakfast Gail and I talked about what happened on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri.  Witnesses strongly disagree on some points.

But on one point the most reliable witnesses agree that Michael Brown charged at Officer Darren Wilson.

What in the world was going on in Michael Brown’s head?

We will never really know.  But Gail and I feel we have a better than average guess what was going on.  Michael Brown had enough.

Sure, there is a supporting cast of contributing factors. Petty larceny.  Tensions in and unique to Ferguson.  Decades-long tensions in America between its powers-that-be and American people who have no part in the America of those powers.  I’m sure you can add to the list.

But he had enough.

There is no other explanation for why in the middle of a hot summer day a black man would run down the middle of the street directly at a white policeman holding a gun.

He’d had enough.

***

 

“open their eyes.”  It’s my responsibility to open their eyes.  Maybe your responsibility too.

There are many people in America who do not see.  They don’t understand the oppressive weight on those who do not have a place in America.  They do not see the overt and covert oppression visited on individuals, families, communities.  They don’t know, really know, people who live with this weight.  They don’t get it.

We have a responsibility.  We are to open their eyes.  That they might turn from darkness to light and from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of God.

In turning comes forgiveness of sin.  In turning they find a place.  Not in the systems and structures of this world’s powers.  They may already be in those places.

‘place’ in Jesus’ words, later recounted by the Apostle Paul when forced to stand as a prisoner before authorities, is a place where God’s people discover they are set apart for a holy purpose.  God’s purpose for his people.  To talk of.  To live for.  To bring full life to human beings.  “I have come that they may have life” (John 10:10).  God calls his people to join his mission.

We have a responsibility.

To people who have just gotten too tired of it all.  Had enough.

We have a responsibility for people who don’t get it.  Whose eyes need to be opened.

People on both sides of the road.

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